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September 2016, Issue 9

Four C's Reach
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Finding Reassurance in Uncertainty

For this month’s installment of musings on “Excellence in Service and Programming”, you get a quick intro to my favorite podcaster, Radiolab’s Jad Abrumrad!

Last Sunday night the San Antonio Mind Science Institute hosted the creator of the popular Public Radio show, Macarthur Fellow and Peabody Award-winning Mr. Abrumrad, who gave a talk (layered with lots of sound) about the process of innovation. He spoke about the virtue of "gut churn," that state of visceral anxiety when we feel seriously uncertain about creative work. Radiolab has been described as a sort of major new leap in radio broadcasting (hence the awards), and Abrumrad attributes its success to a process of "failing forward" in which his team's initial ideas were often almost unrecognizable in the resulting work. He talked about gambling on long-shots - not all the time, but regularly - as his team's best practice for maintaining their creative edge. And he talked about the benefit of innovation as opening up new territory or adjacent possibility.

Student Affairs at UTSA is committed to going beyond our current best, and we've identified broad strategies to do so. Practicing the 4Cs (Communicate, Connect, Collaborate & Create) will lead us in unexpected directions and into unfamiliar territory. We've identified that we don’t grow or improve if we are unwilling to take risks. Although there is much that we do that's too important to fail, there is also a lot of room for creative experimentation. Because we care about our students and the outcomes of our work, that uncertainty will mean a degree of discomfort. We need to remember that although there will be failures, we have to keep going for the eventual successes, and that those successes may expose even greater unforeseen prospects. What Mr. Abrumrad reminds us (and he's hardly alone in making the point) is that the discomfort inherent in risk-taking is OK. It’s even something to be welcomed and seen as a possible arrow toward progress. Maybe we can take comfort in that.

If you'd like to learn more, Jad's manifesto on the gut-twisting discomfort of creativity is a fun and quick read.

Submitted by —
Eliot Howard
Associate Director, Student Leadership Development

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